Over the years, I've written about our husband and wife partnership as entrepreneurs building a business. I've covered living on the road while working and growing a family. I've discussed how to find your center when raising a family while building your empire. And I've shared work hacks to keep you on top of your game while traveling.
Across the board, I've emphasized the importance of a routine to ensure discipline and traction both personally and professionally when you're scaling a business and raising your tribe. I felt like my husband Buddy, and I had a leg up on working remotely and being productive.
If there were ever a time that could test my strategies and beliefs in my capacity for stress and change, it's government-mandated quarantine. Wow! Our family was sick with colds and cases of flu before the California COVID-19 quarantine, so at the time I'm writing this, we're actually in Week 5 of Sheltering in Place. Thank God it's Spring Break.
Seriously, I like my kids' schoolwork even less than they do, so Spring Break came at a much-needed time. I've always loved our children's teachers, but they have achieved a whole new level of greatness in my eyes. I don't know how you teachers do it. Then, many of you come home and do homework with your kids! I tip my hat to you all!
We lived in an RV with a toddler while I was third-trimester pregnant with number two, in North Dakota. We were 50 miles from the Canadian border, and it was the middle of December, yet we went to work on a construction site every day. Sounds grim, right? Well, I gotta tell you, that was easier than the past month at home with two kids doing "independent" online schooling — and a three-year-old running around trying to derail the train!
Our motto for many years has been, "the family that travels together, stays together." And now all I want is a weekend away with my girlfriends! Or better yet, a weekend alone, in silence, in an ashram. Do you remember silence? What I wouldn't give for a little silence.
In my last post: Finding peace amidst uncertainty, I explored some of the hacks we were using in an attempt to keep the peace in our little village! Fast forward a few weeks, and we've figured out a few more things, experienced some more failures, laughed, argued, had a couple of meltdowns, and learned more about ourselves and each other.
All of their lives, our kids have had front row seats for our American Dream-Chasing Tour. In fact, they've had backstage passes. So for them, watching mom and dad juggle schedules, tag-team work and chores at home, coordinate school pickups and drop-offs — along with work meetings and travel schedules — is nothing new.
What is new is that we've taken on the additional responsibility of trying to be teachers — and without the help we usually have (from a babysitter or family member.) Don't judge, or do if you want! But, if anyone tells you they keep their pace personally and professionally without any help —they're lying. Our life isn't one-size-fits-all, but we're fighting hard to design the life of our dreams, and most of the time, it works for us. When it doesn't, it can get a little messy.
As bootstrapping entrepreneurs, I think we are pretty nimble and innovative. But pack all five of us, and our French Bulldog Lovie, around the clock in a home with no office, garage or den, and even the greatest domestic diva would be tested. Oh, did I mention it's been pouring outside for days on end!
It's been a learning experience, and no doubt will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I think I can safely say we are starting to make a little more progress each day. As partners, as a couple and as parents, we're getting better at coordinating our schedules in advance to prioritize the kids and their school schedules, along with needs for physical activity and play. We're organizing our schedules to allow time for each of us to work on our professional and passion projects.
What we haven't mastered yet is much time together as a couple. These kids are ALL UP IN OUR BUSINESS! The big kids are still a little young to babysit the three-year-old. Besides, I'm convinced that if they were alone on an island, he would be named Lord of the Flies. Date nights are a nice idea, and an overnight getaway is a distant memory of days gone by. We have to shelve any real chance to connect until we get the kiddos in bed, schoolwork reviewed and uploaded, and the casa cleaned. Then we pour ourselves into bed, both exhausted from schooling, parenting, housework, and work.
Next week, we're going to work on prioritizing our time to talk, plan, and connect during the little man's nap time. Look out kids, mom and dad are going to start having a lot more "conference calls" midday, so no knocking on the door, it's an important meeting!
Sometimes, the days are long and other days seem even longer, and then there are days when I feel like we're in our element and could take the kids out of school, move on to a boat and sail around the world! For clarification, this feeling lasts for about 3.2 seconds, and then the baby spits milk across the room in an effort to make his siblings laugh, and I'm jolted back to reality. In all seriousness, though, I know we'll look back on this epic, scary, and crazy-beautiful time in our lives, years from now and long for these days with our babies. Humor is just one way I choose to find joy, and hopefully, bring a little joy to you as well!
At the end of the day, isn't how we choose to control our attitudes part of this whole endeavor? With so much out of our control, our perspective is one thing we can control. We have to work at it, but we do have choices. It's too soon to know what the future will hold or the shape of our "new normal." But one thing is already certain: There is an opportunity in this for us all. We each have an opportunity to learn, evolve, and to grow closer as a family and as a community. What will you choose?
Long Live the Adventure,
I know I’m not alone when I admit that this past week was a little crazy! Each morning, I’d visualize our day filled with love and laughter. I’d see us working together as a family and drawing closer to one another during this time of quarantine. And while that was a lovely intention, by mid morning without fail, I’d feel like I needed to retreat to my closet to gain a little composure. The reality of keeping a calm and peaceful environment amidst our circumstances was harder than I visualized.
I’d love to tell you that we entered into the weekend with grace and ease, but I’d be a big ole LIAR! Let me start with the fact that for two weeks before the new reality of Social Distancing, our schedules were diverted as our family suffered through a cold, followed by a nasty stomach flu. So we were already laying low and trying to keep our germs confined when the world went crazy in response to COVID-19 health concerns. As schools closed and folks posted memes about the horrors of having their kids at home on Day 3, we were, in essence, on Week 3! Lord, help us all!
Our circumstances were like many others: Two of our kiddos began independent studies, mixed with online instruction. We started to tie up loose ends with trips to the grocery store and post office. We rescheduled meetings from face-to-face to virtual and streamlined our schedules to enable us to be home to care for the kiddos. Remote classes are a great alternative to allow the kids to continue their education during this time of uncertainty, but they are far from independent. Trouble-shooting technology issues and helping the kids stay focused requires a great deal of our time. Of course, this was in addition to trying to execute our professional initiatives. Plus, I haven’t done fourth and sixth-grade math since I was in elementary school, and at the risk of embarrassing myself, it’s tough!
March has been wet, but we were blessed with a little sunshine this week. It was brisk out, but the break in the rain allowed the kids to play outside for short periods, which helped. Anytime it rains in California, it’s a blessing. But since we’re also in the middle of a construction project, the areas around our house — which someday will be concrete driveways — are giant mud puddles. We can’t pave until the ground dries out. Add three kids to that scene and you can imagine how many times a day we have to sweep our floors!
Don’t get me wrong; this is life and part of the joy and responsibility of “Adulting.” I don’t even think I’m complaining, as much as I am processing. For example, my car is in the shop, and I’m stressed knowing we’re temporarily a one-car family, but it’s not like I’m going anywhere. I’m late for nothing, no one is waiting on me, I haven’t missed any deadlines, our whole world is on pause, and yet the feeling of angst is still present.
Buddy and I have a pretty exceptional relationship most of the time, and we work hard at co-parenting. Still, truth be told this week left us both vying for personal time to have our meetings, catch up on emails, read contracts, and me trying to carve out a few minutes each day to work on a book I’m writing. We found ourselves on edge, disagreeing over quarantine philosophies, and exhausted from the increased efforts at home. We were at odds over how concerned we should, or shouldn’t be about the quarantine, and debating about whether to fly to Hawaii to visit family or to hole up on our ranch in the mountains.
There has also been some beauty in isolation. We’ve had dinner together as a family every night. We’ve been able to witness and better understand our children’s work ethics and habits. We’ve started to work on some projects that have been lingering and reprioritized some life practices at home, like getting back into a little homesteading.
When moving into our new home in the country, we elected not to get cable or satellite TV. We have the Internet and a smart TV, so we watch movies, but we didn’t want the TV and certainly not the news to have a prominent role in our daily lives. I have a news app and regularly check headlines and read more about what’s relevant to us as needed. I must say that not having cable has been wildly liberating and often ignorance feels like bliss. At times, however, we have felt a little disconnected throughout the international and now local pandemic. Now that the virus is upon us, in our county, and our state has mandated quarantine and all non-essential businesses cease operations, we’re paying even more attention to the growing concern.
Even with intentionally veering from the news hysteria, I have experienced a myriad of emotions recently and especially this week, as I’m assuming many of you have also. Panic, anxiety, and conspiracy theories have all taken up space in my mind. I consciously and repeatedly choose to move away from entertaining these thoughts, but I must admit it’s scary.
It's been an effort to stick with some essential daily practices and to implement some new ones. I want to ensure sanity, normalcy, and a sense of productivity and momentum. These measures and absolutes helped me this week and will benefit me in the coming weeks.
As the week comes to an end, I reflect on what went well and what we can improve on. I know that the weeks will likely become more difficult, lonely for friends and family, and the news of our world and neighborhoods will become even scarier, but these practices will help us remain strong in the midst of whatever storms may come:
-Choose Joy - As you notice your hearts becoming heavy or your irritability rising, try to take a few breaths and remind yourself that the only thing we can control is our attitude and our thoughts.
-Stick to, or establish, your Morning Routine - Friends, this is EVERYTHING. It will start your day off with positive momentum and give you a little time to yourself to practice self-care and execute on some of your priorities.
-Move your body every day - I have a stationary bike, but there were times this week we had dance parties, or practiced running in place and doing yoga online. No excuses — move your body every day!
-Make healthy food choices - Eating well provides you with more energy, and gaining weight during this time will only play more tricks on your psyche.
-Choose one organizing project every day - You don’t have to go after a whole room. Pick one cabinet, one dresser, one coat closet that needs some love. Purge whatever doesn’t serve you, reorganize and clean the space. You will feel pride in the accomplishment and freedom in letting go.
-Start a new habit - Ever thought of raising chickens for eggs, waste composting, making homemade cleaning supplies, or implementing essential oils? Now is a great time to educate yourself and explore something new and positive that will benefit you, your family, and our planet. Thank God for Amazon Prime!
-Develop a parenting plan for the week with your partner - Look over each other’s schedules and decide who is doing what each day. This will help manage expectations and ensure you both understand the other's commitments and goals for the week.
-Don’t keep a scoreboard with your partner - Commit to each other that you won’t keep track, or throw back at each other, who’s done what. This behavior won’t help anything.
-Have a plan - Do try to implement some fun activities: Lip Syncs, Board Games, Family Meal Preparation. A little creativity will go a long way in breaking up the long days at home.
-Encourage the kids to journal - These are historic times around the world and they likely have a lot of feelings about it. Maybe they will want to share their journal, or elect to keep it to themselves. Either way is okay and spending a few minutes writing their thoughts down can be beneficial.
-Give yourself a break - Sometimes just surviving is thriving! Do not compare yourself to other’s highlight reels on social media. If you are doing the best you can, and you’ve made mac ‘n cheese three days in a row, it’s okay, sister! Just keep going!
Limit your alcohol consumption - I used white wine in a recipe last night and poured myself a glass. It tasted so good on my lips, I poured another! I thought, "Oh wow, this could be dangerous." For context, this was the first drink I've had in a week, but in times like this if I weren't careful, I'd find myself day-drinking by noon on the regular.
-Exercise grace with the ones you love, and with yourself - Forgive quickly and ask for forgiveness when you have a lash out or breakdown that’s bound to happen. These are stressful times, don’t be too proud to say you’re sorry.
-Pray - I don’t just mean pray after you’ve lost it on your kiddos, or partner, and life has turned into a poop-show, and you’re questioning your mental health. Pray in the morning, during the day and at night. Carve out time to sit in silence and meditate. This time in silence and time connecting with your creator will help calm, center, and ground you.
As we begin a new week and work to build and improve on last week. I'm feeling restored by the weekend of exploring and rest. I'm a little scared, but I'm starting the week with intention, purpose and optimism, anticipating that we will achieve that visualization of love and laughter after all.
When the worldwide danger and fear has subsided, I believe and hope that some truly beautiful changes will have occurred. I believe that we’ll have an opportunity to be more centered around our families, make less of an environmental impact, and witness the spirit of American entrepreneurialism at its best, among other things. My hope is that we won’t lose sight of this time, that we’ll implement truly positive change at home and in our world. We’ll get through this and have the opportunity to be closer and stronger than ever.
Stay Safe, Choose Joy and Show Love.
Long Live the Adventure,
My husband and business partner, Buddy, and I have owned and operated businesses together for over 16 years. We have established and sold two companies and are now working on our third venture. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time traveling, both for business and pleasure. When on vacation or business travel, the work back at the office doesn’t pause or slow; it continues to build. Having a structured remote work routine can be the key to your success, allowing you to stay on top of business even when you are out of the office.
Growing, and scaling, our businesses over the years has required a great deal of commitment and time and often required us to travel, sometimes at length. We embraced the philosophy, “the family that travels together, stays together,” and took our children with us whenever possible. We also turned many business trips into a vacation to make the most of our time somewhere. One summer, we drove cross-country on two different highways, taking crew members to dinner and conducting job interviews, while stopping to tour national parks and visiting family members along the way.
When your spouse is your partner, and you’re traveling together, (meaning you are both out of the office), you need even more self-discipline. Striking a balance can be challenging when working remotely. For us, it’s been a learning process, and sometimes I feel like I have to learn the same lessons over again. Here, I’ll cover some tactics we’ve learned over the years that might help you manage your existing workload, gain traction on new initiatives, spend quality time with your family and explore new places and adventures on your journeys.
A theme in our family and my life is: Work Hard, Play Hard. You’ll find this underlying message in all my writing, speeches and videos. I believe in embracing life to the full and living purposefully every day with that objective in mind. Yes, at times, this intense lifestyle can be exhausting. I have to live very intentionally to keep pace with our self-imposed chaos. This starts with a relentless morning routine. I also work to incorporate meditation, a healthy(ish) diet, adequate sleep and other beneficial daily habits. Let me disclose; I’m never 100 percent. I never fully crush it in every area, but I am always trying and that helps keep me centered amidst the mayhem.
Travel is part of that mayhem, but it’s worth the effort. Travel will enrich your life and create impactful experiences and memories to share with your family. It can also expand your business, and I’m not just referring to the big meetings and conferences you attend while on your trips. Exposure to new cultures, excellent customer service and interactions with new people can serve as an opportunity to broaden your experience and foster an environment for creative innovation within your own business.
Here are some Work & Travel Life Hacks to help you prepare for your next business trip, family vacation or hybrid of the two. You’ll be excited and organized with a smart plan that will allow you to stay on top of your work life as you embrace the next adventure with your littles!
1) Prep hard before leaving: Plan ahead to take as little work with you as possible. I work like crazy when preparing to be out of the office. I make a list of all of the tasks that I can complete before leaving, so I go into my trip feeling really good about all the momentum I’ve made.
2) Put everything in a planner: I know it’s 2020, but I still use a planner. I also use my Outlook/iCal, and my husband and I share calendars, so we don’t double book each other. When I’m preparing to be out of the office for a while, I find it a helpful exercise to write everything down and to see it all laid out in one place. I can review it daily to see what the week and specific days look like at a glance.
3) Set up autoreply for voicemail and email: I used to be wildly insecure about using autoreply, I thought my clients would lose respect for me if they knew I didn’t chain myself to my work desk. Now, I use my autoreply as a chance to gain respect and build trust with my clients and team members by keeping them informed.
Here’s an example of how I structure an autoreply:
I’m working remotely from Monday, Feb. 17 through Friday, Feb. 21. I’ll be responding to emails and messages twice daily, so there may be a slight delay in my response time. If you need immediate assistance, please reach out to XXX at (XXX)XXX-XXXX. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch shortly. As always, thank you for your trust and confidence in our team.
Long Live the Adventure, Nikki
4) Streamline your meeting schedule: Once you’ve organized your schedule, identify what you can delegate to minimize the number of conference calls you need to attend. Delegation is essential to scaling a business. You must have a capable team that you trust. That's why you hired them, right? If you aren’t a natural delegator, start working on this skill now. It will empower your team and elevate your capacity to focus on areas of your highest and best use. (Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I’ll write a blog about this soon.) Also, assign someone to take notes in meetings and to email you a recap for your review during your scheduled work period (see below).
6) Tag-team: Cover for each other: You both don’t have to be everywhere at once. Decide who needs to attend what meetings, and let that person recap the other when possible.
7) Schedule working periods: Schedule working periods twice a day to check and respond to emails, review recaps and take action on any outstanding projects. Ensure that these time slots are short and as efficient as possible. Mitigate distractions so you can dive in, be productive and then get back out to your family, who will be anxiously awaiting your return. Note: Don’t take calls on the botanical garden hike to the waterfall with your kids. Be present. They deserve it.
8) Wake up early: We are relentless about our morning routines, even when on vacation. We still wake up early and tackle our individual routines, first thing. Early morning is a great time to knock out your first working period of the day. The kiddos are still sleeping, and you both can be extremely productive without distractions. You can get through all of your morning emails before the team is in the office, and can still hit the slopes for some morning turns.
9) Maximize flight/naptime: I try to maximize flight time, to get the extra edge before starting a vacation or returning to the office. I use this time to work on big initiatives that I might have put off. Our kids don’t have access to tablets, unless we’re traveling a long distance, so during this time, they’re pretty captivated. I’m working on writing, preparing a presentation for an upcoming speaking opportunity, building a budget, or reviewing contracts, while they’re watching the newest movie we downloaded before the flight. It’s amazing how productive you’ll find yourself on a plane! If your kiddos are still young enough to nap, this is another perfect time for scheduling your working periods. They won’t even notice that you’re growing your empire while they’re sleeping peacefully.
10) Play hard: Lastly, remember what’s important. Work hard during your scheduled work periods. Stay on top of your emails, so you don’t fall behind and bottleneck your team. Empower and build trust in your leaders — your company will be better for it. Be in the moment with your partner and children. Focus on each other and cherish the time together. Abstain from checking your phone while you’re with your family, and don’t feel guilty. Life is short and they’ll be out pursuing their own adventures before we know it. Prioritize your family; don’t fit them in around your business. When you schedule your priorities — instead of prioritizing your schedule — you are in control of what you deem is most important. What’s most important to you — the journey or pursuit of what’s at the end of it?
We're a family who loves living life to the full. We try to live each day with intention in an effort to find gratitude, seek wonder, show love and a experience a ton of laughter.